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What if a defective drug's manufacturer cannot be pinpointed?

We've previously discussed the fact that manufacturers of pharmaceuticals have a duty to ensure that the processes they use to create the drugs they sell meet federal Food and Drug Administration guidelines, and that the medications produced thereby are safe and effective for the end users. Further, we've touched on the fact that there can be defects in the design of a drug, the manufacturing of the medicine itself, or in the way consumers are told about the potential effects of drugs. When a drug company allows a medication with a defect to be placed into the stream of commerce, they may be liable for monetary damages to anyone who is injured by the product.

In some cases, it will be relatively easy to determine when a defective drug causes an injury, as there will be a fairly obvious cause and effect relationship between the patient consuming the medicine and the harmful effects. This will not always be the case, however. For example, in the case of a drug taken during a woman's pregnancy that causes some sort of long-term harm to the child, the actual damage done by the defective product may not be known for months or even years.

In such cases, it may be difficult to determine what substance caused the injuries to occur. This is because a patient may have taken numerous drugs during a certain time period, and anyone of those medications may have caused the problem. Generally, plaintiffs will have to show that their injuries were caused by the drug in question to be able to recover damages. However, in cases where time has lapsed through no fault of the patient, there may be ways to shift the burden onto the manufacturer of the products taken to show that they were not at fault.

These burden-shifting arguments are not simple, and will only apply in very specific situations. Because of this, those who have been harmed by a defective drug, especially a prescription medication whose deleterious effects did not show up immediately, may wish to consider contacting an experienced products liability attorney.

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